Shoalhaven Zoo handler Trent Burton has spoken about his life and death struggle with a 3.7 metre, 300 kilogram resident crocodile.
Talking from the Sydney Hand Hospital, Mr Burton admitted he received a “massive get out of jail free card.”
“I knew when he got hold of me he would try to walk to the water and I had to avoid that at all costs,” he said.
“I just knew I had to get my hand out of his mouth. I just went into damage control.”
Mr Burton and zoo owner Nick Schilko had played out the scenario in training.
They had an agreement that if either of them were bitten by one of the crocodiles they were willing to lose whatever body part was in its mouth.
They knew to be dragged into the water would most likely mean death.
“In the first part of the struggle my aim was to get my hand free, I shoved my other hand in there to try to do that,” Mr Burton said.
“I would have been happy if he ripped my hand off.
“The force he had was incredible.
“He didn’t let go until we were in the water, and I think that’s because I fell on top of him.
“I don’t know if he let go to get a better grip or was thinking other things. I certainly wasn’t going to stay around and ask why.”
Mr Burton said the crocodile, named John, was bred in captivity, raised on a crocodile farm and fed chopped meat.
He said the croc had never grabbed a large, live animal before.
“I’m not saying he wouldn’t know what to do but when I came down on top of him, it’s the first real big food he has had to deal with in his life,” Mr Burton said.
“I’m not sure why he let go, I’m just glad he did.
“Thankfully he hadn’t read the manual on death rolls or head shakes.”
Although free, Mr Burton’s ordeal wasn’t over, he still had to get out of the pond he’d been dragged into.
“I think he [John] went into defence mode because I had fallen on him. I knew I just had to get out of the water,” he said.
“There was still a 3.7m croc somewhere underneath me.”
He described being pulled toward the water like having a tug-o-war with someone.
“You pull and pull and when you are losing you give a little ground,” he said.
“There was no give, it was like being attached to a car’s towbar and then the car slowly driving away.”